Police in Kerala’s Wayanad have arrested six men on charges of sexual assault, including rape, of seven minor girls from an orphanage in the district. The assailants targeted the girls repeatedly over the last two months after threatening to blackmail them using mobile phone footage of the abuse, police said.
According to police, the seven girls, between 13 and 14 years old, were first lured with sweets while returning from school to their hostel by the accused who were running shops near the orphanage at Muttil in Wayanad. “The girls used to return to their hostel, around 200 metres from the school, in batches in the evenings. The accused first struck up friendship with the girls and offered them sweets. On one instance, one of the girls were taken to a room behind the shops and raped. The other girls, who went inside to check on their friend, were also abused,’’ said a police officer.
“The accused took visuals of the abuse. On several evenings, the girls had little option but to obey the youths who threatened to make the visuals public,” said the officer.
On March 2, an orphanage staff member noticed the girls coming out of the room behind the shops. The orphanage then conducted a preliminary probe and registered a complaint with local police. Later, medical examination confirmed that the girls were subjected to sexual abuse, said police.
When contacted, orphanage spokesman T M Rasheed said, “The orphanage has several qualified lady counsellors who are
always available at the hostel, which houses 120 girls. After this case was exposed, the girls told the counsellors that the youths threatened to release the visuals if they spoke about the ordeal.’’
Crimes against children have registered a steep increase in Kerala over recent years. In 2008, the total incidents of crime against minors, including rape, were 549. In 2016, the figure rose to 2,899.
According to police records, 215 minors were raped in Kerala in 2008, 709 in 2014 and 926 in 2016.